gap year in israel

Dear Parents,

I can’t believe that the Jerusalem experience will soon be over, but we still had plenty to do this week. Here are some of the highlights:

On Sunday afternoon, the students met with me in the Ulam for our final community talk of the semester. Afterwards, we had an informative session with Charlee on how to make a professional resume. We also wrote hand written thank you notes for our internships, thanking them for giving us the amazing opportunities they provided over the semester. 

On Monday night, we held an Oscars night where the students presented one another with awards for achievements this semester. Everyone showed up in their best clothes and it was an amazing night planned by the Culture Committee. There is much to be applauded in completing a semester abroad and the students have come a long way in achieving independence in their personal lives and in developing their inter-personal connections. We are so proud of everything the students have achieved this semester. Tova Brocco said, “I have met people I will never forget, I learned everything can be fixed with ice cream, and thank you to everyone for being there for one another this semester. It’s definitely not one I’ll ever forget.

On Tuesday night, we had an incredible speaker come in from Stand With Us to speak to us about BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions), and how it is growing on college campuses. Josh Warhit, who works with StandWithUs, really helped us get a better understanding of what BDS is and how it is becoming more and more of a problem. He gave us tips on how to respond to it and how to fight against BDS, whether speaking to someone face to face or dealing with it on a student government level. Avi Bendayan said, “It was really interesting to hear just how effective BDS is and how effective SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) are around the US.  At the end of his presentation, we split up into three groups and each got a scenario that we had to come up with strategies to solve. One of the groups came up with an idea on what to do if the student government passes a law that BDS is okay on campus. It was really intense trying to find a strategy for this scenario because none of us have really faced the wrath of BDS yet, but I am confident that now the students know how to.”

Tuesday morning was a beautiful morning and we went just outside of Jerusalem to do the hike called Sataf. We learned about the ancient Arab villages that once existed in this area and their ingenuity in accessing the natural water flow. We made our way to a pool of water that was built many years ago to collect the flowing water and crawled through a tunnel to the other side. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed walking through nature and experiencing the beauty that is Israel. We learned about the different trees and plants in Israel and what wild fruits are safe to eat.

Hannah Saban said, “It was us and nature today. We saw ruins. We heard the birds and animals. Today gave us the opportunity to be in the Judean Hills and see Israel. This semester is helping me step out of my comfort zone and hiking wasn’t really my thing before, but now I’ve found a certain beauty in being outside and one with Jerusalem.” We ended the day with a short stop at ‘Hamifletzet’. The famous and bizarre playground sculpture is unquestionably the Golem, located in Kiryat Yovel’s Rabinovich Park. It’s an enormous black, white and red…protuberance…that looks roughly akin to a melted Holstein. It was built in 1971 by the French modern artist Niki de Saint Phalle but the population of Jerusalem rejected the sculpture’s given name (despite it already being Hebrew) and came up with something more descriptive: “Hamifletzet” (the monster). 

Jared Suffet said, “This was by far the best tiyul we had all semester and I can’t believe it was our last one as a Jerusalem family.

On Wednesday morning, some of our students baked cookies to be handed out to soldiers. The students are constantly thinking of new ways to volunteer and help and we couldn’t be more proud of them! Barri Miller said, “Kindness begins at home. And Israel is my home. I’m so happy I was able to give back and show my gratitude for everything they do for us on a daily basis.” 

Wednesday night was our final Parsha and Pizza of the semester and fittingly we ended the book of Genesis with the portion of Vayechi. We heard about the death of Jacob and the blessings he gave to his sons and grandchildren on his deathbed. Rabbi Marc taught the group about the matriarch Rachel, who Jacob remembered in his final moments. We explored her role in Jewish history as the figure who accompanied the Jewish people into exile and the person who will greet us once again when the Jews return to their land. We listened to a song by Idan Raichel that referenced Rachel. The song was written in 2006 when three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped – only one of them was returned – Gilad Shalit. We ended with a study of the song Hamalach HaGoel that appears in the week’s portion as part of the Bracha given by Jacob to Efraim and Mennashe.

This week was also the end of our incredible Selah semester. We had our final Shabbaton last weekend. We stayed in a boutique hotel in Jerusalem and joined our beloved teachers Nili and Reb Keith for a memorable meal at their home in the Nachlaot neighborhood. Shabbat day we met up for a discussion group with Rabbi Marc before walking to Sacher Park for a Shabbat picnic lunch. We ended Shabbat with a Bibliodrama workshop about the story of Yosef and his brothers. Monday saw us head out for our final Tanach Tiyul. We travelled to Ela valley and climbed up Tel Azeka – the scene of the famous battle between David and Goliath. We studied the relevant chapter from the book of Samuel and discussed ideas of faith, courage and underdogs that appear throughout the biblical text. Shalhevet led us in a reflection activity on the top of the mountain and ran some final games. Thursday saw us end the semester with a review of what we have done and a celebratory breakfast in a nearby Italian restaurant. The group had an hour to answer questions that offered an overview of their experience. This has been a wonderful semester that has flown by so quickly. We look forward to more meaningful Jewish experiences and conversations next semester in Tel Aviv.

Soon it will be the final week of the semester and we have many things planned: exams, a ‘tekkes siyum’ – final ceremony, a last supper, and more! 

All the Best,


Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael